The Center for Fiction has awarded its First Novel Prize to Raven Leilani for her critically acclaimed book, Luster.
Leilani’s novel, which follows a young artist who becomes romantically involved with a married man and then moves in with his family, won this year’s Kirkus Prize for fiction. A reviewer for Kirkus called the book “sharp, strange, propellant—and a whole lot of fun.”
“Raven Leilani's unforgettable portrayal of Edie—a young Black woman who finds herself in a series of bizarre, dysfunctional, and darkly funny situations in her ongoing quest to discover herself—is delivered in pitch-perfect prose,” said the Center for Fiction’s Allison Escoto.
In her acceptance speech, Leilani noted that the last public reading she held before the Covid-19 pandemic was at the Center for Fiction.
“I want to say thank you to the librarians and the booksellers and the indie bookstores who have advocated fiercely for this book and made this experience what it is,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who came to this book with generosity. It has really meant everything.”
The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize was first awarded in 2006. Previous winners have included Karl Marlantes for Matterhorn, Viet Thanh Nguyen for The Sympathizer, and Tommy Orange for There There.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.